Martin Scorsese interviews his mother and father about their life in New York City and the family history back in Sicily. These are two people who have lived together for a long time and ... See full summary »
J.R. is a typical Italian-American on the streets of New York. When he gets involved with a local girl, he decides to get married and settle down, but when he learns that she was once raped, he cannot handle it. More explicitly linked with Catholic guilt than Scorsese's later work, we see what happens to J.R. when his religious guilt catches up with him.Written by
David Gibson <email@example.com>
This is a hard movie to review because it's essentially an amalgam of several different shorter student films, and some work better than others.
That said, at the crux of "Who's That Knocking at My Door" (the final mass-released version) is a complex character-study laden with Catholic guilt and burdened by all the inherent stigmas and traditions of growing up Italian-American.
Obviously Scorsece knew his source material very well. More than half of the players and virtually all the locations come straight from his own life. What's really cool about the film, though, is how honestly he portrays these sociological nuances. He doesn't tell you Keitel's character's views and attitudes are good or bad, they just "are" --- and it's obvious how the character developed them from a peek into his everyday world.
This bracing honesty is the most appealing thing about the film, along with some drop-dead gorgeous camera work and editing featured here. The first scene where Keitel meets Bethune on the ferry has got to be one of the most imaginatively-shot and enthrallingly staged boy-meets-girl moments on celluloid. Throughout the film, Scorcese overlays soundless scenes from the past and future, creating interesting juxtapositions, always engaging and challenging your perceptions.
With a lot of debuts there are missteps. I don't think that fairly characterizes this movie however. There are definitely parts that drag and don't work well but seen in the context of a shorter film, they would have been more effective. As they're all blended together here, the pacing sometimes suffers.
It's hard to imagine any of the fans of Scorsece's later works, which rely so heavily on hyper-real camera-work and tightly-structured story lines, to have the patience for "Who's That Knocking." But for those who really enjoy the thoughtfulness, subversiveness, and subtext of Scorcese's films, it's a treat to see their origins so prominently displayed.
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